Fulton commissioner suing colleagues; candidate alleges smear campaign

People explore the new assembly hall at a ribbon cutting celebrating the new assembly hall and renovations at the Fulton County government building in Atlanta, Georgia, on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. (Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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People explore the new assembly hall at a ribbon cutting celebrating the new assembly hall and renovations at the Fulton County government building in Atlanta, Georgia, on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. (Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Lawsuits filed six days before primary election

Two lawsuits filed Wednesday could affect local elections in Fulton County, just days before voters cast the final ballots.

Commissioner Khadijah Abdur-Rahman is suing her six colleagues on the Fulton County Commission and wants a judge to file a temporary restraining order against them because they are allegedly “interfering with the right of free speech by (her) at Commissioner Meetings.” The suit names her fellow Democrats on the commission, as well as the Republicans.

The second lawsuit comes from Robert H. Kelly, who serves as Abdur-Rahman’s chief of staff and is running for southern Fulton’s District 5, challenging current Commissioner Marvin Arrington, Jr.

Kelly is suing Arrington for $1 million, saying Arrington has “published on the Internet on various platforms false information about (Kelly) with malice” in an attempt to undermine his campaign. Arrington denies the claims.

The lawsuits were filed just before commissioners gathered for their scheduled 10 a.m. meeting. So for the first part of session, the commissioners didn’t even know they had been sued by their colleague.

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“Enough is enough,” Khadijah wrote in a news release. “I have no choice but to ask a fair and independent judge to stop these rogue actions by my colleagues. I don’t know if a commissioner has ever had to sue his/her colleagues, but I will not stand for these officials to continually violate my rights as a citizen and my ability to perform my constitutional duties as an elected official.”

These lawsuits continue an ongoing feud between the county and Abdur-Rahman — along with Kelly and Rick Blalock, who runs Abdur-Rahman’s communications part time. Blalock is running for the open District 1 seat.

Commissioners in March voted to bar county employees from running for the commission to “avoid the potential for unfair advantage, conflict of interest, impropriety, or appearance of the same.” They claimed that applied to Kelly and Blalock.

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The men took their fight to court, where Abdur-Rahman testified in their favor. A judge then initially ruled the men could keep their jobs while pursuing office. After that ruling, commissioners in mid-April passed a law barring any future employees from running for the Board of Commissioners.

Arrington, just before he entered executive session, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he learned about the lawsuit when the AJC reached out to him for comment.

“Just like his campaign, it’s frivolous,” Arrington said of the Kelly lawsuit.

The lawsuit includes social media posts of Arrington opposing Kelly’s candidacy, saying he doesn’t live in Fulton. That issue was investigated by District Attorney Fani Willis to see if Kelly lied under oath when he qualified as a Fulton resident to run for office.

The concern has also been addressed by the courts but remains active despite a judge’s decision Tuesday to not continue the claim that Kelly lives in Fayette County.

“I believe this whole investigation was to just muddy the waters,” Kelly told the AJC.

Arrington views it as something else: “He has the audacity to sue Fulton County when he knows that he lives in Fayette County.”

The cases now must make their way through the legal system as voters continue to cast their ballots.

Abdur-Rahman lawsuit:


Kelly lawsuit:


Credit: WSBTV Videos

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Voting issues arise in South Fulton County as candidate's name was absent from ballot

Credit: WSBTV Videos